Where do you find the heart of a new piece of hardware? Thankfully, Sony’s included it on the hard-drive of every PlayStation 5 it’s shipping: Astro’s Playroom is a pre-installed 3D platformer that puts the console and its DualSense controller through their paces, and plenty more besides. It’s a thing of spark and wit, and quite possibly the best 3D platformer I’ve played outside of Nintendo’s own efforts.
If you’ve played PlayStation VR’s Astro Bot: Rescue Mission, you may well have seen this coming. This is another Sony Japan Studio joint, headed up by French designer Nicolas Doucet, and it inherits an awful lot from the delightful little 2018 game. Captain Astro returns, Aibo’s distant cousin serving as an affable lead loaded with a jetpack-enabled double-jump and always ready with a gleeful wave to camera. Like the best platform characters, he’s buoyant with his own inner life even before you’ve pressed a button – leave the controller alone and Astro will whip out a Vita or a PlayStation VR unit and play happily by themselves.
It’s a piece of impeccable fan service, as is the entirety of Astro’s Playroom, its premise a doe-eyed hymn to the history of Sony’s video game adventures, from the demo disc that came bundled in with the original PlayStation all the way through to the all-new DualSense controller whose abilities are proudly shown off. There are four worlds with four levels apiece, each world styled after a previous generation of PlayStation hardware: the PlayStation 1’s light grey plastic textures the cliff faces of Memory Meadow, its walkways the cables of original PlayStation controllers. Elsewhere you’ll climb ledges made of DualShock triggers, dodge transistors – hell, you’ll even find yourself singing along to a ditty written in tribute to a GPU.